US coronavirus death toll reaches new one-day high

The coronavirus claimed more than 4,300 lives on Tuesday, another one-day high, amid further signs that pandemic fatigue is likely to lead to further spread of the virus.

The death toll from Covid-19 has now passed 380,000 across the US, according to Johns Hopkins University – closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in the second world war, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8m.

With the country simultaneously facing a political crisis and on edge over threats of more violence from far-right extremists, the US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins’ count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states.

Against this background there are signs that quarantine rules are collapsing in some states. In Oregon this week customers lined up to get into Carver Hangar, a family-owned restaurant and sports bar 20 miles south-east of Portland that fully reopened on 1 January in defiance of the state’s indoor dining ban.

“We’re not going to back down because our employees still need to eat, they still need that income,” said owner Bryan Mitchell. “The statement that we’re making is, ‘Every life is essential. You have the right to survive. Nobody should tell you what you can and cannot do to provide for your family.’”

Carver Hangar is just one of a growing number of restaurants in states across the country are reopening in defiance of strict Covid-19 rules that have shut them down for indoor dining for weeks, or even months. Restaurants can serve people outside or offer carry-out, but winter weather has crippled revenues from patio dining.

In Los Angeles, now one of the hardest hit cities, the actor Bruce Willis was asked to leave a store after refusing to wear a face mask. “It was an error in judgment,” Willis told People magazine. “Be safe out there everyone and let’s continue to mask up,” he added.

The latest daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past two and a half months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being distributed. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million a day on average.

More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.

New York, Oregon and other state medical providers have thrown out precious vaccine doses after struggling to find patients who matched strict vaccination guidelines. The issue has been exacerbated by the reluctance of some healthcare workers and others who qualify for early vaccination to receive vaccine.

New York has since loosened those guidelines as coronavirus cases continued to rise.

The effort is ramping up around the country. Large-scale, drive-thru vaccination sites have opened at stadiums and other places, enabling people to get their shots through their car windows.

Also, an increasing number of states have begun offering vaccinations to the next group in line – senior citizens – with the minimum age varying from place to place at 65, 70 or 75. Up to now, healthcare workers and nursing home residents have been given priority in most places.

The Trump administration announced plans Tuesday to speed up the vaccination drive by releasing the whole supply of doses, instead of holding large quantities in reserve to make sure people get their second shot on time.

Wires contributed to this story.

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